Wednesday, 21 August 2013

St Hilda's Crime and Mystery Conference - Sunday 18 August 2013 and final thoughts

Sundays at St Hilda's always tends to be a much more leisurely affair despite the anticipation and the fact that all of us in attendance know that the weekend is nearly over.

After breakfast and before the Conference Lecture there is always the opportunity to relax, go for a walk, go punting or do whatever your heart desires.  In my case I disappeared off with two friends around to the local coffee shop to have a large cafe latte and a catch-up.

The conference started again in earnest just before midday when Jill Paton Walsh gave the Conference Lecture.  The title of her talk was From Daniel to Dr Who via Aristotle.  In her talk, Jill Paton Walsh stated that she did not consider herself to be a genre writer but a novelist and a general reader.  She was also curious to know why crime fiction was not being given its due especially since the barrier surrounding genre fiction is being stormed in all directions.  She also stated that there was a well established trend of literary novelists writing crime novels and that genre jumping was not new.  Jill Paton Walsh also gave us an insiders and scholarly take on Dorothy L Sayers.
© Ayo Onatade

I also chaired a panel on the Sunday afternoon after lunch on Is there a Future for Crime Fiction? The panel members were Richard Reynolds from Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge, Broo Doherty an agent and Ruth Tross who is an editor for Mulholland Books and imprint at Hodder and Stoughton.  In a wide ranging panel discussion the topics that were discussed included - what was selling to the publishing houses and to the public via the bookshops, why does sex and violence sell or has there been a falling off in sales of violent serial killer books.  Where can the genre go next?, exciting new writers we might now about.  What part bloggers and critics play in getting new writers to the fore and whether or not it was true that men sell better books than books by women despite the fact that women buy more books than men.

One of the good things about St Hilda's is the fact that there are always a large number of authors in attendance whether or not they are giving a talk.  This year it was a pleasure to see in addition to those giving talks authors such as AK Benedict, Frances Brody, Marjorie Eccles, Kate Ellis, Jane Finnis, Anthea Fraser, Ann Granger, Betty Rowlands, Caroline Todd, Leigh Russell, Juliet McKenna, Marcia Talley and Rebecca Tope to name a few.

I am always sad when St Hilda's finishes.  It is like wanting to extend your holiday and
Frances Fyfield, Martin Edwards & Andrew Taylor © Ayo Onatade
knowing that you can't.  It is such a shame. This year was no exception.  The success of this Conference is down to a combination of things.  Kate Charles and Eileen Roberts for their impeccable organising skills, one is not in the least bit surprised that St Hilda's is now in its twentieth year and also the Chair of the conference in this case Natasha Cooper who has a wonderful flair for putting people at easy and for ensuring in her calm, efficient way that everyone enjoys themselves.  All of them work in such an amazing manner that it is no wonder that everyone keeps on coming back year after year.

So what about next year?  As is the tradition Kate Charles announced the theme and the
(L-R) Kate Ellis and Jane Finnis © Ayo Onatade
dates at the end of the Conference.  The theme is War in Crime Fiction or as Eileen said, Crime in War Time.  As for the dates, next year St Hilda's Crime and Mystery Conference will take place between 15th and 17th August 2014.  I for one shall most certainly be there.

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